12 February, 2015

What accent do you have?

Our boys, and the many others like them, don't fit neatly
into other people's ideas of who they are or what
they should sound like. 
We celebrated Australia Day this year with some new Australians, British immigrants. One of their guests also had an English accent, so I asked her if she was visiting from overseas or if she'd moved over. It turned out that she'd been in Australia for many years, but never really lost her accent.

But she was quick to point out that if she were to return to her land of birth, people there would ask what her accent was. So, she's forever in an inbetween-world.

We've had Australians identify that our accents are no longer 100% Aussie. That was especially the case when we first got off the plane. Yet those we meet in Japan identify our accents as very clearly Australian.

The situation is more complex for children growing up in different countries. When I was at uni I remember meeting Australians teenagers who had been at an international Christian school in Manilla, their accents were American to our ears. 

The same has happened to our children, especially our younger two. They've all been strongly influenced by American teachers in their younger years. In fact at their school in Japan the American accent dominates (yes, I know you'll tell me that there is no such thing as "the American accent"), even for those who've never been to America, like our children.

Accent has a tendency to label you, to identify where you fit. So it is no surprise that with at least two or three accents in their history, the accents of children like ours (called TCKs or Third Culture Kids) will shift around depending on their context, as they strive to fit into their environment. 

Nor is it surprising that a TCK who moves to a completely different culture, would seek to cultivate a different accent just in order to fit in. Check out this well written article by the son of former colleagues in Japan:

You might also enjoy reading this post I wrote early last year about answering the question, "Where are you from?":

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